|Release date November 3, 1994|
Karuthamma (English: The Dusky Girl) is a 1994 Tamil drama film directed and written by P. Bharathiraja. The film's script was co-written by M. Rathna Kumar. The film's score and soundtrack are composed by A. R. Rahman. The film met with critical acclaim upon release and received accolades. It stars Rajashree played titular role with Raja and Maheswari played lead with Vadivukkarasi, Ponvannan and Janagaraj played pivotal role.
- Release and reception
- Critical Appreciation
- Box Office
The soundtrack of the film by Academy Award winner A. R. Rahman is hailed as a masterpiece. The track Porale Ponnuthayi won a National Film Award for its singer Swarnalatha.
Mokkatha (Vani), a wife of Mokkaiyan (Periyar Dasan), a farmer in Pottalpetti village, is in labour. They already have two daughters and are keen to have a son; two daughters born earlier were killed soon after birth by feeding them with poisonous cactus extract. Unable to pay hefty dowries for their daughters marriage, the villagers consider female infanticide to be acceptable. A new school teacher (R. Sundarrajan) feels sad on learning about this heinous practice. When Mokkatha delivers a girl again, Mokkaiyan orders the village midwife (S. N. Lakshmi) to kill the baby. The midwife sadly tries to feed the cactus extract to the baby at a secluded place. The school teacher notices, meets her and requests to handover the infant so that he can bring up her. She hands over and he moves away from the village with the child.
Years roll by, Stephen (Raja) a veterinary doctor, comes to the village. Mokkaiyan's first daughter Ponnatha (Saranya Ponvannan) is married to Thavasi (Ponvannan). The second daughter Karuthamma (Rajashree) takes care of the family. After getting into some tiff with Stephen, Karuthamma falls in love with him.
Ponnatha has two daughters: and is pregnant for the third time. Unfortunately, when a girl is born again, Kaliamma (Vadivukkarasi), her mother-in-law and sister of Mokkaiyan orders to kill it. To save her child, Ponnatha escapes with her baby and is chased by Thavasi, who beats her to death; the child also dies. He and Kaliamma enact a drama that Ponnatha died during childbirth.
Karuthamma, devastated with the death of her sister, does not believe this story. Ponnatha had earlier expressed her fear to her that if she delivered a girl again, Kaliamma would kill her. When Karuthamma is giving a ceremonial bath to Ponnatha's baby, she notices bloodstains on her abdomen. Concluding that she was murdered, Karuthamma stops the funeral and rushes to complain to the police. The village chairman Chellamuthu (Kamalasekhar), who is close to Thavasi, asks the police not to intervene, hence the police do not. Karuthamma refuses to leave the station. Stephen, who is passing by, threatens action against the police if they do not act on her complaint, as he is also Government employee. Left with no option, the police take Ponnatha's body away and arrest Thavasi and Kaliamma.
Dr. Rosy (Maheswari), a teacher's daughter, comes to meet her close relative Stephen. Her presence and closeness with Stephen is misunderstood by Karuthamma. Rosy loves Stephen but he only likes her. Kaliamma's husband (Janagaraj) celebrates her arrest by drinking with Mokkaiyan, who is not used to liquor. Mokkaiyan suffers a paralytic attack and loses control of his limbs. Rosy attends to him and in the process gets attached to Mokkaiyan and Karuthamma.
A few weeks later, when Thavasi and Kaliamma get bail, they come to attack Karuthamma, but Stephen saves her. Chellamuthu manipulates the villagers to accept Thavasi's proposal that Karuthamma must marry Thavasi to take care of Ponnatha's two young daughters (by which the police case will also be closed). Chellamuthu, who has lent money to Mokkaiyan, threatens and seeks immediate repayment if he does not accept this proposal.
Thavasi's father realises that his son is using the young children as bait and takes away the children with him one night. However, he is caught by Thavasi, who motivated by Chellamuthu, burns his father to death. Thavasi takes the children away and forces Karuthamma to come with him to their village to marry him. Shocked with all this, Mokkaiyan consumes poison and is on his death bed.
When Rosy expresses her love to Stephen, he gets surprised and states that he loves Karuthamma. Rosy is shocked as she was keen to marry him and no decides to move away form the village. When the villagers asks her to treat Mokkaiyan who is fighting for his life, she does not as she is keen to leave. When her father, the teacher arrives, the village midwife realises that he is the same person who took Mokkiayan's fifth daughter. The midwife reveals to Rosy that Mokkaiyan is her real father; the school teacher also confirms it. Rosy treats Mokkaiyan, who now realises his mistake of killing female infants, without realizing their worth.
Karuthamma, on the eve of her wedding demands to see the children take away earlier by Thavasi's father. However, Thavasi is unable to show his children (as they were taken by Chellamuthu to use them as bait to force himself on Karuthamma). That night Chellamuthu makes Thavasi drunk and asks him to spare Karuthamma for that night. Thavasi agrees in a drunken state, which is overheard by Karuthamma, who also comes to know that Thavasi had killed his own father. When Chellamuthu goes to meet Karuthamma, she is well prepared to meet him. She murders Chellamuthu and then Thavasi. After saving Ponnatha's children, who were locked inside a box, she returns to her village. Realising that Rosy is her own sister Karuthamma asks her to look after the children and their father and leaves with the police. Stephen is sad but decides to wait for her.
The film's title was named after Bharathiraja's mother. The film's story was based on a real-life incident in a village and the script was written by Bharathiraja's assistant M. Rathnakumar.
Periyar Dasan who worked as professor in Pachaiyappa's college made his acting debut with this film. Rajashree and Maheswari, who is the cousin of actress Sridevi made their acting debuts in this film.
The film was a milestone in the annals of Tamil cinema, addressed the heinous act of female foeticide prevalent in Tamil Nadu during that time. This hard hitting film highlights this crime and created huge awareness among the people and officials, which led to the banning of the practice of prenatal sex identification across country. It was received with critical acclaim and received many accolades. The film looks at female infanticide and the hatred that surrounds the birth of a female child. A father blames his miseries on the birth of his daughters. Set in a rural village. Karuthamma was released to critical acclaim.
The soundtrack of the film features score and 7 songs composed by A. R. Rahman, with lyrics by Vairamuthu.
The soundtrack proved popular upon release. A. R. Rahman demonstrated his skills in composing for smaller budget films, reflecting themes of rural life, equally effectively. The songs gained A.R. Rahman notice for composing native folk, and ballads, such as both versions of the song, as well as dance-inspired compositions like "Thenmerku Paruva Kattu" featured. "Porale Ponnuthayi", a soul touching song, won Swarnalatha the National Film Awards for her soulful singing. The song is based on Mohanam raga. The music was released to high acclaim. The music of "Porale Ponnuthayi" was reused for "Gurus of Peace", for the album Vande Mataram.
Telugu — Vanitha
The soundtrack was also released in Telugu in the dubbed version of the film Vanitha.
Release and reception
The film was released on 3 November 1994.
Behindwoods.com wrote:"Taking in his hands the issue of female infanticide, Bharathiraja presented the poignant tale of a female child who was to be slain as soon as she was born. Besides, he did not fail to pose a question in the end of the movie, serving his part in making the viewer socially conscious". Karuththamma touched upon the emotionally sensitive subject of killing female infants and hence was widely appreciated. The intense story, super hit and youthful music from A. R. Rahman and fine direction by Bharathiraja added sheen to the film. It remains a milestone in Tamil Cinema for bringing to light the menaces in the society and putting an end to them through law.Ananda Vikatan in its review(04-12-1994) mentioned that "Though the subject taken up was delicate, instead of making a documentary, the director has narrated the film, through visuals, which should be appreciated. Bharathiraja must be congratulated for making a heart — wrenching film on a delicate subject without lecturing us on the theme". The film was given 45 Marks.
The film was ran for over 100 days. The first film to bring to light the menace of Female infanticide on screen, Karuththamma forced the Government at National and State level to act against this practice and bring in suitable laws to curb it. It become a catalyst for this change in the society was recognised with both National and State Awards.
The film has won the following awards since its release:
1994 National Film Awards (India)
1994 Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
1994 Filmfare Awards South
Bharathiraja once mentioned that Karuththamma is the finest film in his career. Such was his attachment to the theme of this film!. The practice of gender identification of the foetus and terminating pregnancy for female foetuses was becoming a rampant practice in India. This film highlighted the next level of crime — killing female infants — which created mass awareness on the practice. The Government of Tamil Nadu initiated several new policies to prevent and control this practice in the last 15 Years. A new law across the country banning gender identification of foetus also saved millions of girls lives and maintenance of a healthy sex ratio.
In Kadhal Sadugudu (2003), Theni Kunjaramma tries to kill a female child with milk, Super Subbu (Vivek) who witnesses this says that he has been seeing this from the days of "Karuthamma". One of the songs "Thenmerku Paruvakaatru" inspired a 2010 film of same name. Scenes from the film has been parodied in Thamizh Padam (2010), in the film female infanticide has been replaced with male infanticide. Periyardasan reprises his role from the original film.
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